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Similar culture wars are playing out on opposite sides of the Atlantic this week and both have to do with protecting children and families. In the heart of Europe, Hungarian citizens went to the polls Sunday night to, in part, decide who gets to teach their kids about sex and gender. Similarly, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law.
The Child Protection Act in Hungary
Voters had a chance to weigh in on four specific referendum questions aimed at taking the nation’s temperature on the much-criticized Child Protection Act (2021):
- “Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?”
- “Do you support the display of media content showing gender reassignment to minors?”
- “Do you support the unrestricted depiction of sexual-themed media content to minors that affect their development?”
- “Do you support holding sessions on sexual orientation for minor children in public education institutions without parental consent?”
It is difficult to imagine that parents anywhere around the world, especially in Hungary, where the conservative coalition Fidesz-KDNP has enjoyed a supermajority since first coming to power in 2010, would answer the above questions in the affirmative. And indeed, an overwhelming 90% of those who voted on the measure rejected it.
In a cunning political move, the opposition coalition invalidated the referendum by advising supporters to damage their ballots. According to Hungarian law, a referendum is deemed binding only if it draws an up or down vote from at least 50% of voters who turn out.
It worked; only 44% or so of Sunday’s voters weighed in on the measure. But, no matter. The people have spoken: in Hungary, parents, not teachers, local politicians, or European Union bureaucrats, exercise authority over children. Parents, not K-12 schools, decide what to teach children about sex and gender.
After reading the Western press, one might fear that dark times have fallen on the small Central European country. But nothing could be further from the truth. Hungarian voters just put another brick in the wall of their national sovereignty.
On a continent shaken by the first ground war in 80 years, and in a world reordering itself into polarized centers of power, Hungary is emerging as a standard-bearer for bedrock Western values.
While globalist elites in Brussels and beyond, speak bureaucratically about “the rule of law” based on Euro-centric declarations, Hungarian law strikes a radically different approach. The preamble, or cultural declaration, to the nation’s 2011 Constitution reads: “God bless the Hungarians…We hold that human existence is based on human dignity…We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith, and love.”
Hungary’s naysayers, both within and beyond her borders, will continue insisting that the Hungarian family policy is homophobic and that LGBTQ people are persecuted in Hungarian society. But, as a body politic, Hungarians hold no animus toward the LGBTQ lifestyle, nor do they oppose equal rights for that community. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Hungarians believe adults should be free to sexually associate with whomever they choose.
But Hungarians understand that the center of Western society is not a roundtable but a dining table. The family, not the government, is the core of humanity and the foundation of national identity. This means parents, not public schools, possess the right to educate children about sex and gender.
In his victory speech on Sunday the Hungarian PM claimed that the sweeping victory of conservative, Christian values represents not the antiquated past, but rather the future of a flourishing Europe. From his lips to God’s ears.
Florida and the Parental Rights in Education law
Across the Atlantic in the State of Florida, a similar culture war is being waged, but with much higher stakes.
A little more than a week ago the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” (HB 1557) bill, legislation that for weeks has been panned by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in a bid to draw broader scorn from the public.
While the bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade and prohibits instruction that is not age-appropriate for students; it never mentions the words “homosexual”, “gay”, “lesbian”, “LGBTQ” or “transgender” and nor does it prohibit saying the word “gay.” But it does require school districts to adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.
The White House, in a clear signal that Democrats consider transgender indoctrination of kids a winning 2022 midterms strategy, countered HB 1557 by publicizing a “fact sheet” encouraging gender reassignment surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone therapy for transgender minors, labeling it “gender expansive” healthcare.
Florida-based Disney company put out a statement saying: “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.” An odd goal for a company that has netted billions on the premise of creating a magical world for children.
There is another aspect to this story that also should not go unnoticed. A national poll given just days ago to a cross-section of American voters found that given the chance to read the bill themselves fully 60% of voters across every category support it. There is a reason opponents must create verbal fiction, whether mislabeling a bill or euphemizing the butchery of gender reassignment surgery. When it comes to pushing their radical trans ideology on kids and families: the American people reject radicalism when given the chance.
While recent child protection measures in Hungary and Florida differ in detail, there is at least one lesson we can take away from both: sovereignty lies in the will of the people. And in both places, the people do not want radical ideology infecting schools or corrupting kids. While the battles on both shores are far from over, this surely is a hopeful bellwether for the future of Western culture.
Kelli Buzzard is a researcher with the Hungary Foundation and Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC). She researches faith, policy, and culture at the Department of Social Sciences and History. She lives in Budapest, Hungary.